This post contains my 13 top tips for joining a new gym. So if you’re new to the gym and want to learn how to feel comfortable at your new workout spot, this is for you!
I recently moved away from my hometown. After 20 years in the same place, it was time to move to a new gym. Now that I’ve made the switch, here’s my advice for new gym members.
Some of you may have noticed that it’s been really quiet on the blog lately. That’s because my husband and I, together with our two young kids, just moved!
And we didn’t just move down the street like when we got married. LOL.
We moved three hours away from our hometown in Oregon. While moving isn’t a big deal to a lot of people, I haven’t moved in over 20 years and I certainly didn’t do THAT move with kids.
The move was also fast, and if it hadn’t been for the fact that our stuff was mostly already packed, it would have been a disaster.
We’re now in a new place (Bend, OR), with a new climate, new lifestyle, surrounded by new people. While I’m excited to meet people (I legit don’t know a soul), I knew that I’d have to break ties with my home gym. It was a little unnerving, since I’d been with that gym for over 9 years.
It was the gym that I’d chosen and paid for by myself as a teen, long before kids. It was also the gym where I took my daughter to socialize as a baby. And it was the gym where I’d hired my first personal trainer, who would influence me enough to later become a trainer myself.
So I guess you could say we have a little history.
Needless to say, I was a little worried about finding a new gym, but also a little excited. I started by looking up gyms near me online. I TOTALLY judge businesses by their websites, but I also had some important criteria for amenities, so I was able to narrow potential gyms down pretty quickly.
What should I look for when joining a gym?
To be totally honest with you, I believe that this will vary a lot based on your personality, and your family and financial situation. (I’ll get to tips for joining a new gym in a minute.) I am BIG on gyms that have childcare, so that really limits me. I am also so NOT into gyms that are country-club-ish. I want to go to gyms that have sense of community, that are down-to-earth, and are also “all business.”
What I mean is that I am not really in it for looks – I’m not there to show off expensive athletic wear – I’m there to work out!
If you’re totally new to the gym, I will tell you that ANY gym will allow you to get the job done (AKA break a sweat) if that’s what you’re focused on. But different gyms certainly do have different dynamics and target different types of people. Despite your gym choice, here are some tips for joining a new gym.
13 Tips For Joining A New Gym
1. Request a tour.
Every gym I have ever been to has given me a free tour. Some gym will do it automatically as part of their sign-on process, but at other gyms you’ll have to request it. Take the tour! Even if you’re not totally new to exercise, it will help you figure out where things are. Plus, it will help you take a peek at all of the amenities you might have otherwise missed on the website or fliers alone.
2. Take advantage of the free pass/classes/training.
The best thing I ever did was take advantage of my two free personal training sessions. I think that if you are new to exercise in general, working with a personal trainer will teach you so much! (Read about the many benefits of working with a personal trainer here.) You’ll learn how to use equipment you might not otherwise touch, and you’ll get a lot of ideas of exercises you can do alone!
Those TWO free sessions I went to years ago led me to purchase a personal training package. Then, my experience was so good that I decided to become a trainer myself a few years later! My confidence and understanding of the gym and exercise in general was all because of those free sessions.
On another note, I think that taking the free classes/sessions will help you understand the gym’s dynamic, how professional they are, and the type of people they attract. (Women, families, bodybuilders, etc.)
3. Try a group fitness class.
If you’re new to a gym, trying to a group fitness class (paid or not) is a good idea. This will not only help you try new things, it will hopefully help you meet new people and make gym buddies. I am a huge advocate of making your exercise time double as social time, so even I go to group fitness classes.
4. Be flexible with your first few workouts.
Your first few workouts might suck! I know mine did. But that’s because I was was busy just looking around, figuring out any new-to-me machines, and worrying about my toddler in the daycare the whole time! That’s okay, and it’s just going to happen. If you have to keep your first few workouts short, that’s okay. Just know that things might not go as planned during your first few workouts because you are still figuring things out.
5. Try to plan your first workout during “slow” hours.
There are just certain times of the day that are busy. Even though you might not know your new gym’s “busy” times yet, it’s safe to say that early mornings and evenings are usually busy. And it’s not just a little intimidating when it’s busy, it’s harder to get your planned workout in. To avoid having to fight for equipment while you explore your new gym, I suggest trying to go during “quiet” times like the late morning to late afternoon if you can.
6. Be okay with a few awkward workouts.
I kind of mentioned this before, but your workouts might just be weird at first. For example, I went to my new gym assuming they’d have the same equipment my last gym did. Well, not only did then not have some of the machines and small bits of equipment I’m used to, but the layout felt weird! Some of the upper body machines were mixed in with lower body machines, which to me doesn’t make sense.
Anyway, I spent a lot of time just walking around looking for machines that weren’t even there (lol). I also did a few random exercises that I normally wouldn’t do together in one workout just because they were easy and the machines were accessible. I felt a little awkward and confused, but I expected it so I still got a decent workout in.
7. Be sure to ask questions.
I don’t recommend going months wondering where the cubbies are before asking a gym employee. (That is totally the type of shy thing I would do a few years ago.) Just ask some questions, even if you already know the answer – it can lead to more conversation and that always helps me relax and get more comfortable.
8. Try to make conversation with someone without interrupting their workout.
This is oriented more to other gym members, not so much gym employees. It is bad gym etiquette to bother someone while they are working out (unless its about use of equipment), especially if they have headphones in. However, you will have many opportunities to make small talk with other people. And most of them are more than happy to talk!
I suggest asking questions about someone’s favorite group fitness class, where they got their yoga mat, etc. (Simple, superficial stuff is good to start with) I think that making small talk can not only lead to friendship later, but it also helps build your confidence if you have someone that you can recognize, smile at, etc. at the gym. Familiar faces are always nice and I think that we are all more successful when we have positive social interactions at the gym. It keeps us coming back!
9. Take note of busy hours.
I did mention trying to go to your new gym during slow hours. But you should try take note of the “really” busy hours if you are trying to plan pretty specific workouts. I also advocate this if you are one of those people who is likely to drive by, see a full gym, and not go in the gym. I did this as a self-conscious and anxious twenty-something. If going to the gym makes you anxious, avoid those times!
10. Learn alternative exercises for when your desired equipment is already in use.
This is one of the most important tips for joining a new gym. It’s also part of why I advocate hiring a personal trainer at least for a few sessions sometime in your life. There are times when your desired equipment will be in use. It’s just going to happen. luckily, there are a lot of other ways to complete one exercise, and a ton of variations of those, too!
*If you are a “cable machine” type of person, this especially important!*
Learn to use free weights (like dumbbells) and resistance bands to exercise. When in doubt, you can do a lot of exercises with your bodyweight alone! (Try my bodyweight booty workout.)
11. Join a bootcamp for a few sessions.
If your gym offers bootcamp, go to it! (Bootcamp is usually group-style personal training where they do circuits.) It’s going to be a little scary to work out with other people, but after a few sessions, I guarantee you’re going to have new gym buddies! In my experience, bootcamps easily turn into little gym posses. You’ll also probably push yourself harder and learn a lot.
12. Be courteous to other gym-goers by learning basic gym etiquette.
Gym etiquette might be a little different from gym-to-gym, but there are basic unspoken rules across most gyms. Here are a few:
- Always wipe down anything you sat on/laid on/sweat on.
- Don’t hog machines/equipment. Be aware of how many people there are in the gym and this should help you gauge demand.
- Don’t bug people who are in the zone!
- Put things back! If you use something, put it back where you find it. Or, if you used something you know wasn’t in the right place to begin with, put it back where it actually goes.
- Don’t be skimpy or gross. Wear the right clothes and shoes, and don’t stare/flirt do weird stuff.
- Don’t sit on equipment while using your phone! It’s okay to change your music or do something brief, but it’s not okay to scroll Insta or take a call when others might be waiting to use a piece of equipment.
13. Don’t take it too seriously!
Don’t overthink it and have fun! Exercise is so much more likely to become a habit if you’re not hating it. So enjoy!
I hope these tips for joining a new gym help you as you embark on your fitness journey at a new place! Can you think of any other tips you’d want to share with others? Tell me bellow!